Elected in 1984
“For imaginative and productive leadership in the management of science
and engineering leading to the development of innovative products for the
consumer and commercial-industrial marketplaces.”
BY EDWIN P. PRZYBYLOWICZ
LEO J. “JACK” THOMAS’s election to the National Academy of Engineering at the age of 47 recognized not only his past accomplishments but portended his future as well. He succeeded Dr. Wesley T. Hanson (inventor of the Kodacolor film system) as director of research at the Eastman Kodak Company in 1977. His rise within the company, which he joined in 1961 as a new Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois, was meteoric. Jack tackled problems facing the research and development organization at a breakneck pace. The worldwide research organization that he managed numbered over 5,000 research scientists, engineers, and support personnel located in seven laboratories throughout the world. In 1984 he had established an eighth research laboratory in Japan.
Jack’s abilities as a manager and a leader of people were evident from his earliest days at Kodak. In his interactions with people he conveyed an interest in and understanding of their work. He had a wonderful combination of curiosity, a photographic memory, and a strategic bent in his thinking. He was a voracious reader with an interest in not only science and technology but also people and their lives. His capacity for absorbing and utilizing information was unsurpassed.